My (Cathy’s) husband decided he wanted to learn to speak German. So I bought him the online version of RosettaStone. My husband taught for 38 years, but now he is once again a student. We often meet for ‘recess’ over the island in our kitchen and talk about our day so far. I find it delightfully funny to listen to him reflect on his lesson. He says things like, “it’s hard!” and “my brain is so tired after a couple of hours”. But my personal favourite is after he has had an online session with a live instructor. Sometimes he says things like, “I didn’t like the instructor today, she wasn’t very friendly.” Wow. No matter what the age of the student, learning is challenging and the teacher makes all the difference. He is so much happier when he happens upon a suitably attentive and patient teacher. He feels encouraged and motivated. He is smiling when we have our recess. This says so much about the power we wield as teachers, doesn’t it? I wonder how many students are smiling during recess. I hope lots. BTW, my husband loves the program and highly recommends it!
As our team continues its research and writing on teaching, I (Clive) have been re-reading John Loughran’s wonderful book What Expert Teachers Do (Routledge, 2010). http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415579674/
This week I came across a section that reports a common gap between teacher and student views of good teaching (pp. 210-11). For example:
Students should have opportunities to be active and think about their learning experiences
Learning is associated with gaining right answers, and thinking and personal understanding are just different and often frustrating ways of achieving required outcomes
Linking experiences from both within and outside school greatly assists learning
The final grade is the critical outcome and the basis by which progress is judged
Loughran’s colleague Jeff Northfield, on whose teaching experiences these findings were based, was able to bridge the gap to a degree, but only by “listening carefully to his students [and] capitalising on opportunities as they arose.”
This helped me see that in developing ideas about good teaching (and good teacher education) we must work closely with our students, listening to them as they describe the realities of their world. Together we must come up with a pedagogy they understand and accept, one that both meets their immediate needs and ensures deeper gains for the long-term. We need to reconcile broader ideals with hard realities.
I think this can be done; but we must actually do it. Part of what is involved is practicing with our students the constructivism and dialogical teaching we believe in, and that really does work. Clive